OHL Preview – Peterborough Petes
Head Coach: Rob Wilson (NEW)
Last season was an extremely disappointing one for the Petes. Coming off a 42-21-0-5 season the expectation was while they may take a step back they certainly wouldn’t fall too far down the standings but that’s exactly what ended up happening. Their coach Jody Hull was subsequently replaced in January after a poor first half of the season with interim assistant coach Andrew Verner taking over. There was talk Peterborough would trade some of their vets to build for the future around that time but they decided to hang onto most of them (except for Jonathan Ang) and make a push for the playoffs. Unfortunately for them they came up incredibly short – 17 points short to be exact. Goaltending was subpar from the previous season, the defence really struggled and up front they were just far too inconsistent. They finished the season with a 23-39-3-3 record.
#30 Dylan Wells. Photo by Clifford Skarstedt/Peterborough Examiner
The Petes enter this season with a new coach at the helm named Rob Wilson. Wilson, is a former Peterborough player who has been coaching in Europe for the last several years. He likes to play fast, aggressive hockey and expects his players to “go to the dirty areas”. He inherits a pretty talented group up front but has some real question marks on defence and in goal.
One bright spot last year was Peterborough’s Powerplay which was actually 9th in the league and an even better 4th overall at home. Forward Pavel Gogolev is coming off a 30 goal season as a 17 yr old and another Nick Robertson is a potential 1st round pick in this year’s draft. Semyon Der-Arguchintsev also had a good offensive year and was drafted in the 3rd rd by Toronto. So Wilson has plenty of offence to work with but the real challenge will be trying to limit the amount of goals they give up as the Petes gave up the third most in the OHL last year (283) and likely lose their workhorse starting goalie.
Nikita Korostelev who led the team with 75 points last year moves on. The Petes also have several overagers including G Dylan Wells & Christopher Paquette who might join their NHL minor league affiliate teams.
How much Offence can they produce?
As mentioned, Pavel Gogolev is coming off a 30 goal campaign but he surprisingly went undrafted at the NHL draft despite being projected as a potential mid round pick. You have to think he is going to come back and play some inspired hockey in hopes of being drafted in his draft year +1 and should be able to improve his point total considerably. When he’s on, he can be a dominant force capable of scoring in a variety of ways. Just check out this hat-trick he scored last year:
Feb 15, 2018 OHL: Pavel Gogolev hat-trick vs Mississauga Steelheads pic.twitter.com/Cb2Zit5u3u
— HockeyRU20 (@HockeyRU20) February 16, 2018
The key for him will be to be more consistent and reliable in his own zone. Make no mistake though he is a highly talented OHL player who could end up having a Dmitri Sokolov type career.
In addition to Gogolev, Semyon Der-Arguchintsev (3rd rd, Tor) returns and should also be able to increase his offensive production from last season. He is a dynamic playmaker who needs to use his teammates better and limit his turnovers but is capable of generating a lot of offensive pressure.
Liam Kirk, is a fascinating story. He was drafted by the Arizona Coyotes in the 2018 NHL draft and comes over after having played in England for the Sheffield Steelers. Kirk has terrific stickhandling ability, a quick release and is a natural goal scorer. He also has excellent hockey sense and will be relied upon to provide some more secondary scoring.
Overall, it appears there is enough up front to at least be competitive. How well they do will depend on how they respond to the new coach’s aggressive style and how much guys like Kirk and Cermak will be able to contribute.
Can the Petes play quality defence?
Matthew Timms the team’s leading scorer for defenceman the last 2 years is an overager who is likely to return. His veteran presence on the back end should help solidify this group.
Declan Chisholm was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets as a 5th round pick in June. He really came into his own last season and plays a solid 2 way game with sneaky offensive upside.
The rest of the group is unheralded.
Overall, it’s not a bad group assuming Timms is back but as a unit they must do a much better job limiting shots and clearing rebounds as they gave their opponents way too many second chances last season. They won’t put up a lot of points offensively but if they can at least take care of their own end they have a chance to be a solid group.
One of the biggest reasons why Peterborough missed the playoffs this year was the disappointing season by their goaltender
Dylan Wells. Wells, who was the Petes team MVP in 2016-17 really struggled to find any consistency last season and quite frankly appeared to wear down. Only one goaltender in the OHL has faced more shots over the last 2 years than Wells (Stephen Dhillon) and it really seemed to affect him both mentally and physically. He would keep his team in games at times but was just too inconsistent often letting in a bad goal or an untimely backbreaking one. The defensive core in front of him wasn’t the greatest but when you go from a .916 SV% one year to .896 SV% the next, it’s hard to just pin that on them.
Wells has the option to return to the OHL as an overager but it’s unlikely Edmonton would want him to go back and face that much rubber again. It would make much more sense for him to be assigned to the ECHL where he can work on his fundamentals and reset mentally. So expect Wells to move on and Peterborough to likely acquire another goalie.
17 yr old Hunter Jones who had awful numbers in 15 games last year (5.14 GAA, .866 SV%) will likely return.
Peterborough has the potential to be a force offensively but it’s how well they do on the back end and in goal that will ultimately decide their fate. Who their starting goaltender will be is still up in there as is which overagers they plan on bringing back or trading. They should be able to score but need to cut down their goals against dramatically if they are going to compete for a playoff spot. It’s tough to anticipate what kind of impact the new coaching staff will have on the team so for now it appears they should be considered a fringe playoff team at best.
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